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Was iPad app too hard too use for Avon reps? Company cancels $125M SAP rollout

by David Needle

December 12 2013

Cosmetics firm Avon has stopped the rollout an SAP-based order management system after problems with the deployment in Canada that appear to be linked to an iPad app. 

As detailed by the Wall Street Journal this week, an estimated $125 million global rollout has been in the works since 2009. But Avon said a pilot deployment in Canada caused "significant business disruption in that market, and did not show a clear return on investment," according to an 8-K filing with the SEC.

An SAP spokesman told the WSJ's CIO Journal that the company "only worked on the back end" of the order management system. But that doesn’t quite square with what SAP CEO Bill McDermott told InformationWeek in an October 2011 interview:

"Andrea Jung [then CEO and chairman] at Avon wanted to have the Avon lady enabled on the iPad so she could digitize the experience with the consumer," McDermott said. "She wanted [goods] ordered on the iPad so the whole demand-driven supply chain would react instantaneously. This was innovating a 100-year-old company and making it brand new again."

IW noted today that an iPad-based Avon demo app was featured at the SAP Sapphire event in 2011. 

An Avon spokesperson referred IW to statements CEO Sheri McCoy made during the company’s third-quarter earnings call. "While the pilot technology platform [in Canada] worked well, the degree of impact or change in the daily processes to the Representative was significant," McCoy told analysts. "This resulted in a steep drop in the active representative count."

InformationWeek’s translation:

“In other words, the technology worked, but it was so hard to use that Avon salespeople -- many of them part timers who network among friends and hold in-home parties -- left the company in droves. That's not consistent with the kind of consumer-grade app experience that has made tablets so popular in sales and retail settings.”

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David Needle is Editor of TabTimes and based in Silicon Valley.
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